How To Start A How-To Essay
A how-to essay is a type of writing in which you give step-by-step instructions on a task, process, or technique. They are usually written in the form of an instruction manual. To write one, write the introduction and then list each of the steps that you’re going to go through. After that, include an example and then finish up with some concluding remarks about why the topic is useful or important.
The introduction should talk about what this article is going to cover (a how-to essay). Give a specific task, process, or technique and indicate how you are going to do this. Write your essay as step-by-step instructions on how to complete a task. What the example does is show people how to do the task in an easy way.
A typical how-to essay is like this: “Step 1: Wipe down the table” or “Step 2: Organize your bookshelf.” This is very important because it helps readers understand that the writer knows what she or he is talking about and can be trusted with information about such processes. As for why these steps are important, they save time and help people know what has to be done.
How to write an introduction
The opening sentence of a how-to essay should give readers an idea of what the next steps are going to be. At the very least, it should sound like you know what you are doing. Because this is not a research paper, focus on giving information in non-academic English. It sounds more professional if it is simple and direct; use short phrases and separate sentences as much as possible. Remember that action verbs work best.
It is important that this first sentence not sound like you are starting off by telling readers things they already know.
So, it is best if it sounds like this: “Learn how to do your own laundry at home, and I’ll show you which clothespins and baskets to buy (this is a laundry basket)….” This makes the reader feel inclined to read on. If you sound too formal, then you will lose the reader because he or she will feel like they already know all this information.
How to organize your how-to essay
State the purpose of the article or idea (purpose) Explain what you will be doing or telling readers about (task) Explain why it is important for people to have this information (benefit). Give tips or warnings that are going to help your readers in real life (suggestions).
Add more details if you can to make it more interesting or if you need them to be able to complete the task. For example, you can say what tools are needed for the task or what common mistakes beginners often make.
Common mistakes to avoid when writing an introduction for a how-to essay
Beginning with what you have learned or reading about
Don’t use old information that you have read or found in a book. Using old and repeated ideas is not very strong and it makes your reader think you are lazy. When people read about how to do something, they think it is easy to do. So, when they find out the writer has already done this, they are going to think the writer does not know how to do anything else, especially things that require skills or knowledge that they don’t possess. If someone reads a how-to essay about house cleaning and finds out it was already written by somebody else, this person is going to think the writer can’t write anything original.
How you are going to do this task or technique or process
In an introduction, do not tell your reader how you are going to do the task. You can mention this in your list of steps later, but it is not needed in the introduction itself. For example, if you were writing a how-to article on how to change a flat tire, you wouldn’t mention anything about where to find the spare tire before getting into the actual steps for changing it. When people read your essay, they want to know what needs to be done and how it can be done—and not what they have already learned in their first reading of this information. Keep your information clear and concise so that people can go back to it as needed.
About the benefits and suggestions
The introduction of the how-to essay only needs to tell readers the purpose of the information. It doesn’t have to include any explanations about why the information is needed or its benefits. These points can be included in a list of steps later on. It is important that your information is clear and easy to understand without your having to guide them through every step they need to take before they are able to complete it. As a how-to writer, you are not showing off what you know; you are giving instructions so that people can do this themselves when they really need it done.
The how-to essay is not a research paper—it doesn’t have to include references or extensive research. Let people know what you are going to tell them about and follow the steps as closely as possible. When people read your instructions, they can easily go back to it if they need an extra step or two. As for the suggestions, you can mention these in a list of steps later on.
What tools you are going to use for this task
It is important that your readers know whether or not they already own any of the tools you will be using for the task. If they don’t, they will have to go out and buy them. If you are going to use your own personal tools, explain how to use them when you get to the task.
Don’t complicate readers mind
Never complicate your introduction with an elaborate overview of the topic. This only confuses your reader and does not tell them what to expect when they read your how-to essay. When people want a general overview, they will search for one on the Web; but in an introduction, your readers are interested only in what it is you are going to tell them right here—not an overview.
Avoid unnecessary details
How are you going to do this? Do they really need to know the details? If they are not going to use this information anyway, why tell them about all the steps? As you read through these web pages, watch yourself for excessive details. Notice what is given and what is left out. Are you presenting all the information or leaving things out? If you feel that some points need to be elaborated on, go ahead and add those parts of your introduction. It’s better than just being vague and leaving out crucial information that could cause confusion or problems in the future.
In brief, you need to make things as clear as possible for your readers. They don’t have a lot of time to read and are not interested in elaborating on anything they find on the page. They want to do something and are looking for a guide; they want your help so that they can do it alone from now on. Be straightforward, stick with the point of your essay and be precise with your instructions so that there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding.
If you have any questions about how-to essays, feel free to contact me! 🙂